Whatever the connection between wealth and happiness truly is, playwright Emily Daly reminds us that it’s complicated.
In her play, Barter (Or Stealing Other People’s Credit Cards), the untimely death of a wealthy businesswoman inadvertently sends the lives of four New Yorkers into personal and financial disarray. Eliza (Lisa Jill Anderson) is rich, but wants to be “normal,” Benny (Zak Kamin) is “normal” but desperate to be rich. Cherry (Breanna Foister), who’s barely making ends meet, wants down with corporate greed. And Charles (Brian Edelman), though neither wealthy nor successful just wants to enjoy the ride.
Through serendipity or perhaps bad luck (depending on your POV), their lives intersect, friendships and morals are tested, mischief ensues and one tiny little Black credit card wreaks a lot of havoc. Oddly, not much actual bartering occurs, but who cares? This play is more about emotional exchange than trading goods and services
At the helm, Lisa Jill Anderson delivers a quiet but effective portrayal of Eliza, the departed’s grieving daughter and heiress who prefers “romantic” subway rides over chauffeurs. Despite her small stature, Breanna Foister is perhaps the ensemble’s most commanding presence as Cherry, an impassioned school teacher and Eliza’s pull-no-punches BFF. Zak Kamin does “loveable loser” well and amuses as Benny, a salesman obsessed with getting a taste of the good life. Brian Edelman garners the play’s funniest moments as Charles, an opportunist and bar owner whose “happy hour” never ends. There really isn’t a weak link in this cast.
One of Barter’s most noteworthy moments is Eliza’s confrontation with Cherry in which the firey-tongued teacher finally calls her friend to task over her sullen mood and rejection of her newfound wealth. It’s intense. Also memorable (and fun to watch) is the flirty cat and mouse exchange that occurs when Charles suddenly impedes upon Cherry’s working turf to promote his thrice re-opening bar. Likewise, the audience will eat up (pun intended) the “dinner scene” due largely to the antics of Brian Edelman whose faux French accent often ventures into “Borat” territory to raucous laughter. Definitely the zaniest scene of the show.
Visually Barter is as bare bones as it gets (even for a Fringe show), the set consisting only of a few chairs, a table and limited props. But director Jonathan Libman pulls it off, creating quick, seamless transitions between scenes and drawing big emotion from a small space. And really, isn’t a minimalist construction the perfect choice for such a moving story about loss, crisis and human connection in a terrifying world? Timely plot. Relatable characters. See it.
Barter has 5 performances, ending July 25, 2012, at Redrum at Fort Fringe, 612 L St NW, Washington, DC.
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Victoria rates this 4 out of a possible 5.